Pancake Day around the World

By Katie Cox

Mmm, Pancake Day! Also known as Shrove Tuesday, it’s the day before the Christian holiday of Lent – a period where people give things up and fast (don’t eat) during the run up to Easter. So, what do we do with all our leftover ingredients before Lent? Use them up and make pancakes!

In this country we’re known to host traditional pancake flipping races, and as I’m sure you’ll know our tasty pancakes are thin, folded over and served with sugar and lemon juice usually. But did you know Pancake Day is celebrated in its own unique and unusual way in countries all around the world?

In Australia, pancakes are a little thicker than ours, and are served cold with butter, jam and cream. In this country it’s very popular to bake and sell pancakes for charity. Churches are often seen hosting “pancake sales” with proceeds going to charities or low-income struggling families.

In Denmark, Pancake Day is on the last Sunday before Lent, is called Fastelavn, and is celebrated by eating Danish-style buns with the middle removed and replaced with whipped cream and/or jam. Yummy!

On this day, children like to dress up and “hit the cat out of the barrel” – an old tradition which, lucky for the cat, is now replaced with sweets. Kids bash the barrel until the sweets fall out, and the two kids who do the best bashin’ are crowned Cat King and Cat Queen!

In Sweden the holiday is called Fettisdagen (meaning fat Tuesday), and they eat Fettisdag Buller; a round bun with the middle scooped out and filled with marzipan and whipped cream. The top of the bun is put back and sprinkled with icing sugar.

It is also traditional to eat pea soup followed by pancakes, on this day and every Thursday all year round.

Pancake Day is looked forward to by many Canadians as they receive their pancake fortunes – in this country it’s tradition to bake items of symbolic value into your pancakes; Coins, pieces of string, wedding rings, nails… The lucky one to find the coin in their pancake will be rich, the finder of the ring will be the first to get married, and you’ll be a seamstress or tailor if you find a string and a carpenter if you find a nail. Pancakes are served with syrup, jam and sausages!

In France the holiday is known as Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. The name Fat Tuesday comes from an old ancient tradition of parading a live fat ox through Paris, to remind people they weren’t to eat meat during Lent. Nowadays, people take to the streets to celebrate the Mardi Gras Festival, adorning their heads with crazy masks and disguises. The Carnival in Nice is a wild 10 day celebration, featuring parades, concerts and street acts all throughout.

The actual French pancake-eating day is the 2nd of February, and is called Candlemas. They prepare crêpes, which symbolise wealth, good crops and good health for the year to come. Pancakes must be tossed with a coin in the hand to ensure prosperity through the year. Whoever can toss their pancake without dropping it on the ground will have good luck until next Candlemas.

In Poland, Shrove Tuesday is called Shedziowska, where people eat herring of various styles. Parties are organised to finish off the celebrations, and end at midnight when it becomes Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent). Their “pancake day” is held on the last Thursday before Lent, where they eat doughnuts and sweet twisty pastries called faworki, and many doughnut competitions are held with proper judges.

Did you know in the past, in England it was believed that the first three pancakes cooked were sacred, and were marked with a cross, sprinkled with salt and set aside to ward off evil!

So there we go, hopefully you learned something new about Pancake Day and different traditions around the world. Whilst the holiday may not be as celebrated for its Christian reasons anymore, I think we can all agree it’s a great excuse to indulge and celebrate with one another!